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Day late, dollar short: My emails to Jim Ryan, Carla Williams

Update: Wednesday, 3:50 p.m. I received the following email from UVA President Jim Ryan in response to my email to him below today at 3:20 p.m.

I’m humbled that he took the time to respond, honestly.

Hi Chris,

Thank you for writing.  All of us at UVA make decisions based on what we think is best for the University, and as important as athletics are to us, we will not lose sight of our greater mission as a university.

We will continue to work hard to make the University the best it can be—one that prioritizes academics, serves our community, and builds citizen leaders who will go on to change the world.  Thanks again for sharing your concerns; I appreciate hearing your perspectives.

Best,
Jim

James E. Ryan
President
University of Virginia

 

chris graham uvaOriginal post: Tuesday, 1:38 p.m. Folks, I tried everything to get the people who run the show at the University of Virginia to slow the roll toward hiring Anthony Poindexter as the next football coach.

All else failing, I decided that the situation required a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.

Which is why I found it worth my time to try to email UVA President Jim Ryan and Athletics Director Carla Williams.

First, the email to Ryan


My name is Chris Graham. I am a 1994 alum of the College of Arts and Sciences, with a degree in American government, and the editor and publisher of AugustaFreePress.com, a news website based in Waynesboro, just over the Blue Ridge.

I grew up in a trailer park in rural Augusta County, the son of a single mother. I graduated second in my high-school class, matriculated at the University, and have been able to make a good life for myself in the years since, while also being able to contribute to the community as a volunteer and non-profit board member.

My years at the University are among the best in my life, and UVA was and continues to be an important part of my life, and a key reason that I have been able to have success, and the ability to pay things forward.

Two things attracted me to want to matriculate, and have been a source of pride in the years since: that the University strives to be the best at whatever it does, and that it aims to be the best by doing things the right way.

The current situation with the search for a new football coach is a reflection that the University no longer is interested in doing things the right way.

The reporting on the search has things at the stage wherein monied donors are dictating to the University and Virginia Athletics who the next choice should be. There are apparently promises being made by donors to write checks to get the Master Plan moving forward that have been delayed since before the pandemic.

It doesn’t take much to figure that those donors promising to write big checks now were withholding those big checks to force Bronco Mendenhall to step down to clear the way for a new coach to be installed.

That’s how this will appear, at the least, and if things play out the way it seems they are about to, it will be a dramatic departure from the standard way of doing business at the University.

I expect this kind of approach from a football-mad, money-hungry SEC or Big 12 school. I expect the University of Virginia to be above the fray.

And frankly, I’d be disappointed if you were to sign off on this. I apologize for not having written before, but I’ve admired the efforts initiated under your watch to make a UVA education accessible to more people like me, because I know personally the value of a UVA education to my life, and the more we can do to allow people from low-income backgrounds to become their best and most productive selves, the better off we all are.

That said, if you sign off on this move to let the money people dictate how the athletics program does business, it will be a stain on the University, and a stain on your legacy, and it will come to define your term in office.

I never thought I’d find myself agreeing with Colgate Darden that the University has no business being involved in “big time, highly subsidized football.”

I was at the Orange Bowl in 2019, 67 years after President Darden declined a bid to play there.

I even ran the 5K along the beach with you and a few hundred fellow ‘Hoos, and the shirt from that day hangs in my closet.

It goes in the trash if you turn our University into a football school run by the money people.

Thanks for your time.

– Chris 


I sent this yesterday. No response. I’m sure Jim Ryan gets a million emails a day. I didn’t expect a response. I doubt that he even reads it.

I also doubt that Carla Williams reads this email I sent to her today.

The email to Williams


I am Chris Graham, a 1994 University of Virginia alum, and a 26-year veteran journalist.

I’m writing today to express my utter displeasure with how the search for a new football coach has been playing out in the public sphere.

The constant leaks from what we have to assume is Anthony Poindexter’s team have put you and President Ryan in the position of appearing to be kowtowing to public pressure to not only hire Poindexter, but then also meet his contract demands.

I have to presume that the success of this effort from Poindexter’s team will lead to this approach being used again in the future whenever the coach doesn’t get his way – for example, if he feels the folks in admissions are getting in his way in terms of getting recruits admitted.

I understand that what has really been going on behind the scenes is almost certainly a lot more detailed than what we know publicly from the reporting that has come from Jerry Ratcliffe, if only because that reporting has been one-sided with the leaks from AP’s camp to put pressure on you, President Ryan and ultimately the Board of Visitors to move in the direction that things have moved.

All the public is going to see out of this is that Poindexter and his team played the University, because for some reason, that’s the narrative that his team seems to want advanced.

This is what you’re getting when you name your next football coach.

Me, as an alum, get a degree and experience forever devalued, because you’re turning my world-class academic and research University into a football program with a university as an appendage.

You’ll one day get to move on to your next job. It won’t matter to you that you’ll have tarnished the reputation of the University of Virginia forevermore.

Thanks in advance.

I hope the football ops center looks good on your resume.

– Chris


My wife said this was “rude” after she read it. My response: “good.” “Rude” is what I was going for.

I meant every word I wrote in both emails. These interlopers are remaking the University of Virginia into Football Factory U.

“Rude” is the least they should expect from people who aren’t on board with their disastrous vision.

Story by Chris Graham


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